Irish Research Council announces 2019 ‘Researchers of the Year’

Posted: 5 December, 2019


– Top-ranked postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers awarded Medals of Excellence –

The winners of the Irish Research Council 2019 ‘Researcher of the Year’ awards were revealed yesterday (04.12.2019) at ceremony to commend the very best of the Council’s awardees and alumni working in academia, industry, civic society and the public sector. President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins was Guest of Honour and presented the winners with their awards.

President Higgins has made research and education one of the key themes of his Presidency, championing the importance of cultivating independent thought and academic freedom. The President has continued to emphasise the crucial role that universities and research institutes can play in crafting a global response to the great global challenges of our time.

Professor Laoise McNamara, NUI Galway, was awarded the ‘Researcher of the Year’ award for her research in bone mechanobiology and osteoporosis. Professor McNamara is a Professor in Biomedical Engineering at NUI Galway and the Vice Dean for Recruitment and Internationalisation for the College of Engineering and Informatics.

Dr Jeremy J. Piggott, Trinity College Dublin, was awarded the ‘Early-Career Researcher of the Year’ award for his research in fundamental and applied ecology, including the management and conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the face of global change. Dr. Piggott is an Assistant Professor in Aquatic Biology at Trinity College Dublin.

Professor David Farrell, University College Dublin, was awarded the ‘Impact Award’ for making a highly significant contribution in his field beyond academia. Professor Farrell is a Professor of Politics in the School of Politics & International Relations at University College Dublin; a member of the Stewarding Group of the Scottish Citizens’ Assembly; Chair of the Finance Sub-Committee of the European Consortium for Political Research; and a member of the international advisory boards of the Electoral Integrity project and Making Electoral Democracy Work project.

Congratulating the awardees, Chair of the Irish Research Council, Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, said: “Professor Laoise McNamara, Dr Jeremy Piggott, and Professor David Farrell’s work demonstrate the breadth of excellent research that is being carried out in Ireland – the impact of which ripples through multiple aspects of Irish life. I warmly congratulate them on their outstanding track records to date, and on receiving their Irish Research Council Researcher of the Year awards.”

Equality and Participation

This year, in recognition of President Higgins’s attendance as Guest of Honour, the Council made a special award to academic and activist Professor Emeritus Kathleen Lynch, University College Dublin, for her exceptional contribution over many decades to Equality and Participation, a theme of his presidency.

Professor Lynch’s work is and has been guided by her belief that the purpose of scholarship and research is not just to understand the world but to change it for the good of all humanity. To this end, she played a lead role in establishing the UCD Equality Studies Centre in 1990 and the UCD School of Social Justice in 2005.

Peter Brown, Director of the Irish Research Council, said: “The Council is unique in that it funds research across all disciplines, and supporting research that addresses major societal challenges is a key priority for us. We are particularly pleased to honour the contribution of Professor Kathleen Lynch in the area of equality and participation, a theme which President Higgins has passionately promoted during his time as President of Ireland.  We believe that investment in societally orientated research is vital in finding innovative and strategic ways to tackle key issues that we are facing.

“We must never forget the importance that world-class research talent has on our economy and our society. Over the last 20 years, the Council has made a significant impact in establishing a vibrant research community in Ireland by investing in exceptional researchers at all stages of their careers. We look forward to building on our achievements to date with the launch of a new five-year strategy next year.”

Medals of Excellence

In addition to the ‘Researcher of the Year’ awards, the Council presented ‘Medals of Excellence’ to four early-stage researchers.

The ‘Medals of Excellence’ have been named after previous Chairs of the Irish Research Council and recognise excellence in the 2019 postgraduate and postdoctoral funding calls run by the Council in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and the arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS).

Shirley Howe, Maynooth University, was awarded the ‘Eda Sagarra Medal of Excellence’ for being the top-ranked postgraduate researcher in the AHSS category. Ms Howe’s research focuses on the culture and climate on Ireland’s islands.

Michael Craig, Trinity College Dublin, was awarded the ‘Jane Grimson Medal of Excellence’ for being the top-ranked postgraduate researcher in the STEM category. Mr Craig’s research focuses on discovering of hybrid materials for water splitting technologies.

Dr Seán Hewitt, University College Cork, was awarded the ‘Maurice J. Bric Medal of Excellence’ for being the top-ranked postdoctoral researcher in the AHSS category. Dr Hewitts’s research explores natural history in British and Irish writing.

Dr Harold Berjamin, NUI Galway, was awarded the ‘Thomas Mitchell Medal of Excellence’ for being the top-ranked postdoctoral researcher in the STEM category. Dr Berjamin’s research is in the mechanical modelling of brain matter.


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